Washington DC is a popular tourist destination year-round, with millions of visitors flocking to the state for its rich historical, political, and cultural institutions and its schedule of seasonal events. Winter is an even more special time to take a trip to this destination – and here’s why!
The National Christmas Tree
Located on the grounds of the White House, this national emblem of Christmas is a beautiful sight to behold and a must-see stop on your festive tour of the state. The Tree Lighting Ceremony draws huge crowds, who come to witness what is widely regarded as marking the start of the Christmas holidays: the event features live music and is a feast of pageantry and winter wonder. The 2024 roster of performers that appeared as part of the lighting ceremony included LL Cool J, Billy Porter, and the Howard University Gospel Choir.
Following the ceremony, the tree is lit every night from 4.30 pm to midnight throughout the entirety of December; and there is also the Pathway of Peace to visit on site. This very special walkway features fifty-six smaller Christmas trees, which represent the fifty states of the US, its five territories, and the District of Columbia.
The site is free to visit, and, for those who don’t manage to fit in a trip to admire the Christmas tree in person, virtual tours are now available, too, that offer a 3D, interactive street view experience that allows users to admire the individual ornaments adorning the boughs, and view information on the meaning behind each.
This is a magical way to start not only the holiday season but your festive visit to Washington. While you’re admiring the National Christmas Tree, why not surprise your special person with an early gift? Have a look here www.onecklace.com for some great ideas that are guaranteed to raise a smile beneath the tree, or how about gifting your loved one a trip to the next location on our list to enjoy some truly heavenly music as part of the Yuletide run-up.
Christmas Concerts Held At The National Cathedral
The National Cathedral in Washington is the second-largest cathedral in the US and ranks as the sixth-largest in the world. Hearing choirs sing here is always an extraordinary experience, but listening to a Christmas Concert at this venue is simply stunning and the epitome of the season. After listening to the choir, make the most of your visit by touring the cathedral and enjoy the sight of this historic building dressed in its festive finery while learning about the unique architecture of this very special space.
The program for Christmas 2024 included performances of Handel’s ‘Messiah’ and a Christmas Day organ recital, in which the cathedral organists played a program of festive music to a virtual audience – it is hoped that a live event will resume in 2024. The cathedral was also host to a special performance of ‘Messiah’ aimed at families with young children: this tot-friendly concert was an abbreviated performance that featured highlights of the classic work. A range of family-oriented events are also held over the holiday period, including a Family Christmas Service.
Christmas Activities At Mount Vernon
Mount Vernon, home to George Washington’s residence and estate, is a popular tourist spot all through the year, but at Christmas, this location transforms into a true winter wonderland! Over the holiday period, visitors can take a candle-lit tour of Mount Vernon to step back in time and enjoy Christmas on the estate as it would have been celebrated in the eighteenth century. As part of the tour, you will learn all about how a traditional Yule of the time was marked from the costumed characters of Christmas past, and have the opportunity to enjoy some cider and cookies; live music features, too.
Over the holidays’ lots of other activities take place at Mount Vernon, many of which are perfect for families with young children. For example, there are Christmas Ornament Decorating workshops, holiday lights and fireworks shows, and chocolate-making demonstrations. In the latter sessions, guests will have the opportunity to learn about the chocolate-making process that needed to be undertaken on the estate so that George Washington could enjoy his regular cup of hot chocolate! Visitors can also enjoy holiday fifing performances or experience a tour of Mount Vernon in the company of Martha Washington.
Some of these events tend to sell out early, so it’s advisable to book well in advance to secure places, where applicable.
Christmas Cork and Cheese Celebration
An hour’s drive out of Washington but well worth the journey: a visit to the festive Christmas Cork and Cheese Celebration held at Gray Ghost Vineyards has become a popular way to relax and indulge over the holidays. As well as having the opportunity to taste a range of wines from the vineyard itself and locally-produced cheeses, guests can also relish a selection of festive desserts, take part in a tour of the vineyard and enjoy plenty of live music. And last but not least, visitors can marvel at the largest cork Christmas display in the world: it’s made up of over 120,000 corks! Now that would have made for some hangover.
Visit The Library Of Congress
Entrance is free to this beautiful building, which, established over two hundred years ago, is the oldest federal cultural institution in the US. Head to the Christmas tree located in the Thomas Jefferson building to get the festive feeling bubbling up and then explore the rest of the library. Its aesthetic majesty and historical importance are why it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in Washington DC. The library hosts a plethora of interactive courses and activity sessions for kids throughout the year – check their website for what will be available in 2024.
Explore The Downtown Holiday Market
Have a Christmassy wander at the holiday market that pops up annually next to the National Portrait Gallery – you’re sure to find the perfect gift for a special loved one and can sample a hot apple cider while you search the stalls! There is no fee to enter the downtown market, and you’ll find a huge variety of vendors offering their wares: from artisan food and drink to artwork created by local artists, the market is a treasure trove of delights. Live music takes place every afternoon and evening, too!
The Downtown Holiday Market usually opens from late November and is focused on supporting small local businesses and providing a secure, safe shopping experience for its many visitors.